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Oddly, no Amazing Spider-Man covers featuring photos of Steve Ditko.

§ May 21st, 2021 § Filed under obituary, publishing § 1 Comment

So y’all had some good suggestions for nice photo covers in the comments for Wednesday’s post, which I appreciate. I especially appreciate Rob Staeger’s reminder that Sandman Mystery Theatre had photo covers for its entire long-ish run, certainly an unusual accomplishment in modern comics. Or this cover noted by BobH with Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

But here comes customer Sean with a comic I wasn’t aware of…Stan Lee cosplaying as the Black Rider on issue #8 of that title from 1950:


You can Read More About It here on this Stan Lee site.

I mean, just gaze helplessly into the steely stare of Stan the Man, all masked up before it was cool:

Speaking of ol’ Stan, Eric brings up the Marvel Fumetti Book from 1984 that has him on the cover:


Thanks to the Bullpen Bulletins in every Marvel mag, plus stuff like the in-house news/previews ‘zine Marvel Age, and just the general editorial shenanigans at Marvel since the get-go, the staff and creators at Marvel were more or less known personalities by the readers. Thus, a collection of photo gags starring the folks behind the comics was something they could probably pull off. I wonder if DC could have done something similar at the time? Maybe a bunch of photo-gags starring Wolfman and Perez, or Curt Swan hanging out with Superman (I mean, in “real life,” not in the story in that last panel here), or Alan Moore terrifying the suits around the DC offices…that sort of thing.

Of course prior to that was Fandom Confidential, a photo strip that ran in The Comic Reader and Comic Buyer’s Guide. But perhaps we’re going a little astray from the simple pleasures of just plain ol’ comic book photo covers. Like this one, which isn’t weird at all.

• • •

Also wanted to note the passing of David Anthony Kraft, publisher of the wonderful Comics Interview magazine, as well as the writer of several swell comics (including, very briefly, some of the original ’70s Swamp Thing). Mark Evanier has some nice words to say here. My condolences, of course, to his family, friends, and fans.

Richard Corben (1940 – 2020).

§ December 11th, 2020 § Filed under obituary, undergrounds § 4 Comments


So I got a copy of Rowlf #1 at the shop a while back in absolutely beautiful condition. It wasn’t Near Mint, but whatever minor flaws it had did nothing to detract from the visual appeal of this cover…the second printing, by the way, as the first print had a different image. It’s certainly the first image that popped into my head when I heard that Richard Corben passed away this week at the age of 80.

The first time I encountered Corben’s art was in an early ’80s issue of Heavy Metal, at a time when I was clearly too young to be looking at this magazine. Lush, fully painted art while still being cartoonishly exaggerated…it was some of his fantasy work, in the same arena as, say, Frazetta and Vallejo, but where they were more in the realm of representational illustration, more or less, here was that weirdo Corben basically doing Tex Avery, with the Wolf’s eyes bugging out of his head and his tongue dragging on the floor. It was a strange mix of styles I hadn’t seen before and had rarely, if ever, seen since.

He’s an underground comix legend, as I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone reading this. When people come to my store looking for undergrounds, more and more often they ask to see my “Crumb comics,” which can mean anything from actual Robert Crumb comics to Freak Brothers to, well, whatever you can think of. I’ve suggested before that “Crumb comics” may be well on its way to becoming a generic term for undergrounds. That said, the second most mentioned name from those looking for undergrounds is Corben. In fact, if anything, any Corben I get in tends to sell faster than my Crumb (I mean, actually by Crumb) books. A largish collection of Corben I took in earlier in the year was gone within just a few weeks. Demand is still high for his work, and his name still looms large among a certain segment of comics fans.

In recent years he seemed to be more active working for Marvel and DC, which, well, one has to go where the money is, but his work for these companies was no less idiosyncratic than his independent projects. The Hellblazer run he did over Brian Azzarello’s scripts, and worked with that same writer on a Hulk mini, and did some horror books for Marvel and Dark Horse…that garnered him some all new fans, certainly, who’d never seen Den.

He was a strange and unique talent, and I’m sure we’re all sad to see him go, but glad he shared as much of his imagination with us that he did.

So long, Richard.

Post-poned.

§ August 31st, 2020 § Filed under eyeball, obituary § 2 Comments

Sorry pals…was going to have an End of Civilization post ready for today, but I had a small eyeball issue and decided the less time in front of the computer monitor, the better. Hopefully I’ll have it up later in the week. Thanks for understanding.

In the meantime, I hope you join me in mourning the passing of Chadwick Boseman. My condolences to his family, friends, and fans.

“I’ll keep this reasonably short,” he lied.

§ November 29th, 2019 § Filed under obituary, x-men § 3 Comments

So I’ll keep this reasonably short since it’s Black Friday and the day after Thanksgiving and y’all have better things to do that to read some old guy’s blog. I just wanted to say that I recently watched Chris Claremont’s X-Men, a documentary about that very thing that I found on Amazon Prime. I thought it was quite interesting, with lots of onscreen interviews with Claremont, one of his editors Ann Nocenti, other-mutant-writer Louise Simonson, and former editor-in-chief of Marvel Jim Shooter.

Lots of discussion about what went into making the book what it was, how certain storylines were put together, and how it all began to fall apart. My big takeaway from it, and one that wasn’t explicitly stated but could certainly be inferred (particularly by someone like myself who watched things happen on the retail end in real time) was that Marvel’s biggest mistake in the long-term health of the X-Men franchise was the straight-up discarding of Claremont after his shepherding of the property for so many years.

I went on bit of a Twitter-tear about this a couple of days back, where I essentially said that if Marvel had just kept Claremont in control of the book, instead of booting him off in favor of the Hot Artists that were in vogue at the time…in essence, if Marvel had thought about the health of the X-Men over the long haul instead of chasing that short term dollar, the X-books might have maintained their relatively-large audience (give or take the impact of the overall market decline in the ’90s) all these years. It could have been a consistent moneymaker, rather than a series of diminishingly-returning reboots/relaunches.

As pal Andrew rightfully noted, near the end there Claremont’s writing on the titles was, perhaps, not as keen as it had once been, and in need of a change. I do believe, however, that a carefully managed changeover to a new committed writer, maybe even keeping Claremont on as a consulting editor, would have been an overall better decision than, you know, what they ended up doing. (And who knows, Claremont could’ve found a second wind on the title…if it was necessary, as readers mostly seemed to think even the latter day stuff was just fine.)

One of the unique aspects of the X-Men, like the Legion of Super-Heroes before it, was the large fandom that surrounded it, attached itself to the characters, and were highly involved in the ongoing soap-opera aspects of their lives. Once that singular vision started to splinter with Claremont’s replacement by Many Hands, that addictive soap opera element began to lose its hold…and with cancellations and reboots, the perceived chain of continuity going back years seemed to feel lost. See also…the Legion of Super-Heroes, strangely enough. And New Teen Titans, too.

Of course, there are plenty of other (X-)factors at work here…I already mentioned the declining comic market, which may have forced reboots and relaunches anyway, whether or not Claremont was still on the title. And maybe, like all things, X-Men may have had its run and declined into obscurity. But I still can’t help but feel if Claremont had stayed on the book, or at least overseen a smooth transition to new creators who could have maintained the book’s approach, maybe those readers would have been kept behind, we’d have a book building on its own past, and we wouldn’t have had multiple restarts and #1s over the last few years.

I think having Jonathan Hickman as sort of the overriding “voice” of the new spate of X-titles isn’t a bad idea…the number and frequency of those new titles is a bad idea, but that’s just how Marvel is nowadays. But people are excited about the X-Men (if not especially the other new related titles) again, which is something that hasn’t happened in recent memory. Of course, as soon as Hickman is gone, everything’s getting new #1s again and we’ll be back at square one, but it is nice to pretend that maybe we’ll see an X-Men issue number…100 again? One can only hope.

• • •

I should note the passing of comics legend Howard Cruse a couple of days ago. He was a great cartoonist, by all accounts a fine human, and it’s sad to know he’s no longer with us. His classic graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, is coming back in a 25th anniversary edition next year, and if you haven’t read it yet, you really should. If you’re new to his work in general, his official website has plenty of strips you can peruse.

So long, Howard.

Tom Spurgeon (1968 – 2019).

§ November 14th, 2019 § Filed under obituary § 6 Comments

Tom Spurgeon was a unique and treasured voice in the comics community, with the incomparable Comics Reporter being a wonderful outlet combining his sardonic worldview with his love of the medium (often despite itself).

I interacted several times over the years, usually over email and, later, Twitter. He was never anything less than friendly and kind in all my dealings with him. On occasion, and not often enough, I’d drop him a line thanking him for a mention of my site on CR, or for noting my birthday (as he did every year), and he always seemed pleased that I did. Even though I’d been in this business for a very long time, Tom doing little things like this made me really feel like I was part of the larger comics industry.

What really got me was this: I was a longtime reader of The Comics Journal, which Tom wrote for and edited for many years. That someone from TCJ, a magazine I enjoyed and admired, a magazine that held comics to a loftier standard than most, found interest and value in sometime I was writing was…validating, to say the least. I still have an email from Tom where he tells me “you know you’re my favorite!” which I’m sure I’m not the only person he’s said that to, but I still value that moment quite a bit.

I…don’t think I ever told him just how much that support, those interactions, meant to me. I had considered that maybe, someday, we’d meet in person, perhaps when he had the opportunity to visit my shop (like he said he hoped to here). Never happened, unfortunately, and so I never fully related that gratitude.

I should have, regardless, at least over email. But I can’t now, though I can still tell all of you what his support meant. And how much I’m going to miss his writing on the internet. It feels strange to think that he won’t still be around, gathering links, reviewing comics, writing commentary, being silly and/or witty on Twitter, looking askance at whatever the rest of us are up to, and otherwise just being Tom.

I know that’s the same with every death: the loss of one particular collection of perspectives, experiences and personality that can’t be replaced. But losing Tom…that’s a rough one. We’ll still have all his writing to enjoy, but it’s difficult to imagine there being no more.

My condolences to his family, his friends, and to the rest of us.

So long, Tom.

A less-brief update.

§ December 24th, 2018 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, obituary § 7 Comments

Hi pals! When we last met, I was still in recovery from some minor eyeball surgery and hoping to be back in full swing in time for Christmas. Well, as it turns out, there’s a minor complication requiring me to go back under the knife this coming Thursday. Nothing serious, just, you know, can’t see out of my right eye since blood ain’t clearing out of it. But I was warned beforehand that this was a possibility, so everything should be fine. It just has to be done, so dood it I will.

But thanks to all of you for your well wishes and kind words, and Progressive Ruin Industries will be up and running again in short order, processing that comics-related product that you’ve grown accustomed to over the last decade and a half.

In the meantime, I will have a special Christmas post up tomorrow…in fact, it’s already put together and scheduled to publish, so it’s too late to stop it now. And I’ll have the annual “gimme your comic predictions for next year” post up Wednesday, so warm up your clairvoyant powers for that. And then, most likely, the rest of week I’ll take off, but I plan to be back the following Monday.

On a somewhat related note, I was pretty happy to have a new issue of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen show up last week…I’d been looking forward to reading it, but I was curious as to why the latest installment came prebagged:


When I popped it open to discover the reason, lo and behold, 3D GLASSES:


This is pretty much the face I made:


Ah, well…something to look forward to after the surgery, I guess.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I’ll meet you all back here tomorrow and Wednesday.

• • •

I should note the passing of Brian Snell, the person behind the Slay, Mostrobot comics blog. He clearly loved the comics medium and had many people who appreciated and supported the work he did expressing that appreciation on a daily basis. My condolences to his friends and fans.

Stan Lee (1922 – 2018).

§ November 12th, 2018 § Filed under obituary § 5 Comments


As I recall, The Comic Reader got in a few letters of comment regarding this cover from 1980, where some folks didn’t appreciate the April Fool’s shenanigans. But I’ll tell you, the second I heard the news today, this was the very first thing that came to mind.

Well, we had Stan around a few decades longer than that gag image above would have had you believe, and I know there’s some discussion within the fandom and the industry about what exactly his legacy is. But, for the public at large, he was comics, and generally a positive representative for the medium. People liked Stan, and they liked to see him, and by extension that improved the perception of comics as a whole, I think. That’s not a bad thing.

And, in collaboration with spectacular artistic talent like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he wrote some of the best comic books ever published, and helped redefine just what a comic book was and what it could do. I’ve said before that the Thing isn’t just one of the greatest characters in comics, but straight-up one of the greatest characters in fiction, and it was Stan’s voice in combination with Jack’s pen that brought that ol’ bashful Benji to life. For that alone, Stan (and of course Jack) would deserve immortality.

I wish his final years had been a bit easier on him, but at the very least I think he knew how many people loved him and his creations.

So long, Stan.

Norm Breyfogle (1960 – 2018).

§ September 26th, 2018 § Filed under obituary § 5 Comments

A DUMMY: “Robin? Oh, please, what a silly character. There’s no way to make him serious and menacing.”

NORM BREYFOGLE: “MAKE WAY, SON”


Still probably one of my favorite Batman covers. Just look at how striking that is. What a great artist Norm Breyfogle was.

So long, Norm.
 
 

Batman #457 (December 1990) – art by Norm Breyfogle)

Steve Ditko (1927 – 2018).

§ July 9th, 2018 § Filed under obituary § 1 Comment


Sometime in the late ’70s, my grandmother gave me a bag of comic books she picked up at a swap meet or thrift store, which included a number of oddball comics I hadn’t seen before. I remember specifically a Classics Illustrated adaptation of Frankenstein (my first exposure to this series), but there were also a handful of first issues from Atlas Comics, which I’d never heard of. Grim Ghost was one, and still remains a favorite to this day…and there was also Destructor #1, the splash page for which was pictured above. I don’t know how much Steve Ditko work I’d been exposed to at that point…I know I had a few Charltons from the period Ditko was working for them, so I probably saw some of his stories there. But I always thought that splash page was a pretty cool drawing. “Hey, this Steve Ditko guy isn’t bad, he should draw more comics.”

I’m a wee bit more knowledgeable about his output now, and about his personal beliefs and artistic standards. He definitely stuck to his guns all the way to the end…I just wish fewer people felt compelled to knock on his door and bother the man in recent years. I mean, he pretty famously wanted to be left alone to work on his comics, right, so, I mean, what were people expecting? “Oh, sure, yes, YOU’RE the one who’s got through to me! You will now be my best friend and I shall reveal to you all my secrets!”

Sheesh. I mean, okay, I admit that deep down I kept a tiny flame alive for Stan Lee and Ditko reuniting for one more Spider-Man story, or that Ditko would finally decide to give one tell-all interview, both of which would surely occur now that flying pig technology has been perfected and Hell finally installed those air conditioners.

Anyway…Steve Ditko. There’s no mistaking his work for anyone else’s, and, especially in his later years, he did it the way he wanted to, beholden to no one’s editorial edict. It was low-hanging fruit to poke fun at some of his odder moments, I admit, but sometimes genius takes you in strange directions, and few geniuses were stranger, or more amazing, than Steve Ditko.

So long, Steve.
 
 

image from Destructor #1 (February 1975) by Archie Goodwin, Steve Ditko and Wally Wood

Harlan Ellison (1934 – 2018).

§ June 29th, 2018 § Filed under obituary § 3 Comments

A contentious figure, certainly, but very much a talented one, whose writing has loomed large in my life for many, many years. There’s a whole lot one could say about him, good and ill, and no matter your opinion on him, I’m sure it’s entirely justified. Still, it’s going to be weird thinking he’s no longer out there, being angry about something, pissing somebody off, or writing something amazing, or doing all three at once.

So long, Harlan.
 
 

image from Adventure Comics #479 (March 1981) by Marv Wolfman, Carmine Infantino and Dennis Jensen

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